The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has just published its safety assessment on mineral oils in cosmetic products. According to these experts, 'considering all available scientific evidence, no health risks are to be expected from absorption via the skin'.
BfR Opinion No 014/2015 of 26 May 2015
Cosmetic products can contain mineral oils. These are naturally occurring, complex mixtures of hydrocarbons of various structures and sizes. They are differentiated into MOSH (mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons) and MOAH (mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons). The latter can contain potentially carcinogenic substances such as polycyclic aromatic compounds. According to the EU cosmetics regulation, mineral oils are only permitted in cosmetic products if the full refining history is known and either the starting material is free of carcinogens or the distillate was tested for carcinogenic properties using specific methods. This is intended to prevent the use of mineral oils which contain substances causing adverse health effects.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has investigated for quite some time the oral intake of MOAH which can migrate from packaging material into food. The institute has now performed a risk assessment of the dermal absorption of MOSH and MOAH from mineral oils used in cosmetic products. As no representative data on MOSH and MOAH content in cosmetic products have been available so far, the BfR has conducted random spot checks on various cosmetic products. In its analyses, the institute measured MOAH concentrations of up to 5%. In order to generate a representative data basis the BfR recommends that monitoring programmes should be conducted which determine MOAH concentrations in cosmetic products. The presence of MOAH in a cosmetic product does not necessarily mean that the product is of concern for human health. Considerable data gaps exist at the moment, however, which make a risk assessment difficult. There is, for example, a lack of reliable data on the uptake of mineral oil through the skin reflecting in particular long-term and repeated dermal exposure. Furthermore there are data gaps regarding a possible oral intake of hydrocarbons from lipsticks and hand creams containing mineral oil.
Considering all available scientific evidence, health risks for consumers caused by the uptake of the mineral oils in cosmetics through the skin are unlikely from the BfR's point of view. No effects on health attributable to the mineral oil components of cosmetic products have been reported up to now despite the fact that they have been in widespread use for many years. In the opinion of the BfR, state-of-the-art technology should nevertheless be used to reduce the MOAH content in cosmetic products to the trace amounts which are unavoidable. A final risk assessment of the absorption of mineral oil through the skin can only be carried out by the BfR when more data becomes available.
For further information
• See the text of Mineral oils in cosmetics: Considering all available scientific evidence, no health risks are to be expected from absorption via the skin , BfR Opinion No 014/2015 of 26 May 2015.